There seems to be two general arguments here. Firstly is it right or wrong to steal other people’s material (software, music, or video). The use of the word steal probably tells you which side of the fence I sit on. The second is should it be legal to knowingly provide a list of places that would be thieves can find the material.
The justification for theft that frequently seems to be being put forward here is that the big music industry moguls are charging far too much for their product and not passing that on to the musicians. Well you may be right, I believe RBS has a lot of money too, should we all be allowed to help ourselves to a chunk? I suspect most right minded people would argue that bank robbery is not justified just because banks are wealthy.
The argument that just because music industry moguls are greedy we are going to deprive them AND the artists even more somehow does not wash. To add to this hypocrisy is the fact that a quick check on Pirate Bay shows that people are quite happy to list material from independent labels that are not rolling in money. I am now less convinced than ever that the average copyright thief is really doing this out of a burning desire to stick it to the man and more out of their own desire to have something for nothing.
Now the argument that the Pirate Bay are not hosting any copyright material so should not or could not be prosecuted. Well obviously they are indeed not actually taking part in the theft but they are making it far easier for the would be thief to track down the material. Suppose I ran a site listing people who are known to have gone on holiday and their addresses. I might argue that this is done so that the milkman can make sure the order is cancelled or that a public spirited neighbour can keep an eye on the property. However if I then call that site ‘theprowlersbag’ and boast on television about how if I want something I just take it, then perhaps people might suspect my motives are not pure.
Should Google etc. also be prosecuted? Well it depends. What are their motives and what are their reactions when told they are listing something illegal? You Tube are quite prepared to delist anything if they receive a complaint. Can we consider Google to be complicit in other crimes such as child pornography, terrorism, helping drug suppliers. I’m sure that a quick Google on any one of these topics would lead to results.
Something I do find a little strange is the copyright rule in the UK that says someone buying a CD cannot make a backup copy. In the Netherlands you are indeed allowed to make a backup. Solving this should not require a change in law it should simply require the individual musicians to state somewhere on the CD that they are happy for you to make a copy onto whatever medium you like as long as it is for your own use and so long as you destroy those copies when or if you pass that CD on.